How to Build a Block Retaining Wall

Retaining Wall
Stackable stone walls create a nice border and increase lawn or garden space. (DepositPhotos)

Retaining walls can be a great way not only to help with erosion and water drainage but also to create beautiful, usable garden space. And thanks to interlocking, stackable blocks, the project can be completed in a weekend.

Building a retaining wall is a tough job, but it’s something most homeowners can handle, as long as you’re able to do some heavy lifting and are willing to get dirty. Here’s what you need to know to build your own stackable retaining wall.

Stackable Concrete Blocks

Stackable stones are made of concrete, with a decorative finish on the front and a lip on the back. The lip fits snugly against the block below it, creating an interlocking joint that holds up to pressure, while the decorative front gives an attractive finish.

The stones are often slightly wedge-shaped to allow you to create gentle curves. With many styles, thin “topper” stones are also available, to give the wall a finished appearance.

Building Tip

Stackable stones are generally recommended for walls less than 3’- 4’ high. Taller walls typically need additional structural reinforcement and may require a building permit along with professional advice or help.

Materials Needed

For this project, you will need:

  • Work gloves
  • Shovel and/or mattock
  • Brick chisel and small sledgehammer
  • Level
  • Wooden stakes
  • String and a line level
  • Soil tamper
  • Gravel (sharp, not rounded) or rock dust
  • Landscape fabric (optional)
  • Interlocking stackable stones and toppers

Estimating the number of blocks you’ll need is tough. Count on at least one block per linear foot, and count on it taking more blocks than your estimate suggests!

Layout and Planning

  1. Before you begin, check with your city utilities office, or dial 811 to make sure there aren’t any buried pipes or cables in your digging zone.
  2. Use a garden hose to lay out a pleasing line for your retaining wall. Mark the ground using flour layout lines or landscape marking paint.

Digging the Trench

  1. Along your marked line, carefully dig a trench slightly wider than the blocks (ideally, the width of your soil tamper), and deep enough so the first course of blocks is below ground level. Cut straight down with the shovel keep from disturbing the surrounding soil.
  2. Make the trench as level as you can, to save time later.
  3. If your wall goes across a slope, you can dig a series of stepped trenches so that only one course of blocks is below ground.
  4. Tamp down the bottom of the trench using a soil tamper.
  5. Add several inches of sharp gravel or rock dust to the bottom of the trench, and use this layer to do your final leveling and tamping.

Laying the First Course

  1. Start at the edge of the wall that’s most visible, or the edge that butts up against another structure. If your wall goes across a slope, start at the lowest end.
  2. Position the first stone in your trench. Make sure the stone is level from front to back and side to side. Adjust by lifting the stone and adding more gravel or digging deeper as necessary.
  3. Hammer wooden stakes in the ground at each end of the trench, and stretch a string between them even with the top of the first stone. Level the string with a line level, and use the string as a guide for laying the rest of the first course.
  4. Continue laying stones side-by-side along your trench, making sure they are level. Getting the first course right is the key to a successful wall.

Laying Additional Courses

  1. Each row of blocks is offset from the one below it. If your wall has straight edges on the ends, start your next course with a block that has been cut in half.
  2. If you’ve worked hard to make sure everything is level, then this is the fun part. Continue laying courses of stones, making sure the lip of the stone is tight against the stone below it, and also making sure the seams are offset. The front edge will have a slightly “stepped-back” look due to the lips on the stones.
  3. Periodically check to make sure the stones are level and wobble-free.
  4. Build up the wall to the desired height, and top with topper stones if desired.

Building Tip

To cut a block in two, score a line around the middle with a brick chisel, then position the chisel on your scored line, and strike it with the small sledgehammer.


  1. To keep your wall clean, spread landscape fabric up against the wall before backfilling.
  2. Backfill the area behind the wall in layers, with gravel against the wall and fill dirt behind it, firmly tamping down each layer.
  3. Finish with a layer of topsoil.

Building Tip

If your wall is intended to divert water runoff, place a perforated drain pipe against the back of the wall before backfilling.

Further Information


  1. I have a question. I did a a small retaining wall that I use blocks last year and now I see that they are turning or they age getting white. When I wet them down the blocks look great but when they dry out I see the white again. Is there something I can do to make them look like they do when they are wet? I don’t like to see the white that I am seeing. Can you help me?

  2. Hi steve, i am in the process of building a retaining wall, and am prepared to guess that your wall is made of concrete blocks. If this is so, the white stuff s simply efflorescence. As far as I know, this is just a side effect of the concrete curing and aging.

  3. I need to create a low retention wall in a family community. What keeps the “vandals” (mostly kids 8-15yo)from simply disassembling this type of wall and what can I do structurally to prevent that?


  4. Patrik,
    You could always use some masons adhesive which is easily applied using a caulk gun. That would prevent someone from vandalizing the wall and also provide additional stability.

  5. I would like to put a small retainer wall for my patio that is made like a figure 8. I want to know how hard is this project to complete?

  6. I am having a hard time finding a manufacturer of Stackable blocks you show on your web site. I live in the Knoxville, TN. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  7. Wayne, you can find stackable blocks at home improvement stores or landscape supply yards. The ones I used (in the next-to-last photo) are Pavestone Natural Impressions Flagstone from Home Depot.

    Villia, stackable blocks work very well in curves. As you can see in the photos, the blocks are usually tapered to make moderate curves without needing to be cut. They’re a great choice for your patio! Any retaining wall is a hard project requires a lot of digging and heavy lifting, but a curved wall is really no harder than a straight one.

  8. I want to build about a 4 foot high retaining wall that will be straight is some spots but also with some curves. I live outside Anchorage. My concern is not earthquakes, but more dealing with the frost heave affects. Do you think the stackable block approach would work? Or do I need to use a foundation type approach?

  9. What is a good way to cut the blocks, I have been using a circular saw with a carbon blade ( mason ) then knocking it with a chisel it seems to work ok ,but is there a more accurate way to do it ?

  10. I am building a retaining wall with stackable block. It is curved on one end and then straight for about 35 feet. The straight portion goes up a slope. The slope increases about 3′ from top to bottom therefore I have to step up as I proceed. Because of this and the fact that the blocks are stackable and have a 1/2 lip on the back of them, every time I step up the wall moves back 1/2 an inch. How do I get around this? It is preventing my wall from being straight.

  11. Does anyone have more pictures of the Pavestone Natural Impressions Flagstone installed sold at Home Depot? I’m planning on installing them in two yards on a slight slope and would like to see how these were installed. Also looking at how to make turns to finish into top of slope, landscape fabric used behind pavers, what mason adhesive for caps, as well as any other tips.

    Also curious if HD is flexible on their pricing if you buy a pallet vs by the block $2.58 a piece

  12. Tom, I used the Natural Impressions pavers for my driveway retaining wall – I’ll send you a few more photos. They were easy to install – like other stackables, if you get the base nice and level, they just fit right into place.

    I didn’t haggle over the price, but I should have – they’re more expensive (and smaller) than other styles of pavers!

    Good luck!

  13. I am building a retaining wall up a slope with stackable blocks. The ground from the bottom to the top is about 6 feet with a length of 22 feet curving around the house. I am going to put in about 6 terraces to allow for the slope and am making each section about 12 inches high to allow for clearance with the siding on the house. I am having a hard time estimating the number of blocks that will be buried for each terrace going into the hillside. I am using grid paper and squares to scale 4″ by 12″. Is there any formula as to how many blocks you have to build into hillside?

  14. Hi, I would like to build a small retaining wall on either side of my driveway around the concrete drainage pipe. Is there anything I should be aware of with this project, or is it just a straight forward retaining wall as stated here.

  15. I am also attempting(for the first time) to put a retaining wall around the drainage pipe on either side of my drive way. I have started and stop a few times now becuase it doesn’t seem to look right. When I finally get it level at the very top there are open spaces in the areas where the blocks touch the pipe. I should say that once I get this wall completed( if ever) I will back fill with top soil and plant grass. Whtat do I fill the spaces with so if it rains the top soil won’t wash away. I am almost to the point of getting a contractor to do the job…lol. Thanx for your help

  16. I am putting a 10′ ring, three rows high, around a tree with blocks that have a tab in the back. The tab causes the circle of each row to be smaller than the one below. Should I space the bottom row of blocks 1/2″ apart and the second row 1/4″ apart so the top row fits snugly? Or what spacing would be better? Thank you.

  17. I want to extend my parking spot straight into a hillside, by about another 8′. Right now the left side is about 4′ high and sloped without any wall is and quite stable. The right side goes from 1/2′ to 4′ again without any wall and is stable. Once I get the area ahead of my car dug out, I’d like to have an open and staggered ( _-_-_-_ )cement block wall.. or treated 4×4’s and then block. Will I need a deadman into the slope ahead of my car spot if it’s as stable as the other areas? If so, how is it put in? The block retaining wall would have open spaces so I can plant flowers and to allow for any drainage. How steep or at what angle will I need to make the slope ahead when I’m digging it out? I hope eventually to build a lattice sided carport just to keep the weather off the car, I currently have two 4×4’s with lattice on either side as a wind break but can only pull my car in 1/2 way. Thank you for your input~!

  18. I made a 10′ diameter circle 2 rows high, then capped. After i leveled 1st row, I started the second row with block centered over the seam of the lower. I thought it should stay centered over seam all the way around since they are all same size, but instead as it went around it gradually was off more and more and not centered over seam even though I am putting them end to end in an almost perfect circle. How or why did this happen?

    • Hi Steve,
      My guess is that the blocks you’re using are aligned when they lock together so each row is slightly stepped back from the one below, as are the rounded stones in the photo in the article above. That would result in each row having a bit smaller diameter circle than the one above it, and since the blocks are the same length, the cumulative effect would be that it would take fewer blocks to make a circle, throwing the joints off.

  19. I have a retaining wall made with 4 x 4 cedar logs. It is pushing out. Can I replace it with stacking bricks? It is a straight wall.

  20. I am building a retaining wall that is 2 course high plus cap do i need two bury one? or can i go with one course plus cap?

  21. I have a 1 foot retaining wall(wood) on the side of my driveway that needs replacing. Can I replace it with stacking blocks if they are to sit on top of my blacktop driveway?

  22. I am building a 2 brick high “wall” around the base of my 15 foot round pool. The river rock comes out about 1 foot. I am going to use blocks that are advertised as being 3-1/2″Hx11-1/2″Wx7″D. How many blocks will I need to make a perfect circle?

  23. I just built a LARGE retaining wall (65′ x 7′); it was might first, and looks great. I researched on the internet how to do everything, and used over 40 tons of road gravel to backfill and compact as I built it.

    I notice in the morning several rows (randomly) will have an inch or two of wet area across several blocks. sometimes this is near the bottom, other times this is in the fourth or fifth row. It varies to the right or left of the wall. This happens even when there has been no rain.

    What is going on? Have I done something wrong?

  24. I am building a retaining wall with the larger block that have the lip on them. I am placing them on a flat concrete footer, do I start the first one with the lip up or down to get started level.

  25. I am having a concrete patio that is 12X22 poured and I would like to use stackable retaining wall stones to build a wall on three side of my patio. Will the extra weight of the stones break my 4″ deep concrete patio?

  26. hello Steve~
    There are lots of videos on how to build a retaining wall. What I need is help on how to step the wall up a slope. No one seems to want to go into that. Can you describe the process for me?

  27. I am building a retaining wall 2 ft high. I purchased cap blcoks. What is the best way to level the cap blocks? Should I remove the locking lip on the last row of blocks? Thanks for any info.

  28. Can I stack the landscaping blocks 6 high and then back fill or do I need to fill with each row to also fill the cavity? I filled the cavity on the base row, but do I need to fill the cavity on every row after? Or can I stack all 5 rows without back filling until it is complete?

  29. Roger: my neighbor recently finished his year-long project of building out his back yard with a 30′ retaining wall (our backyards are a steep bluff, and he wanted a backyard for his kids). He was using larger bricks and ran 2 rows (2′ vertical) at a time, then back filled with sharp gravel/fill and packed it down, then placed a metal mesh/grid-work over it.

    The city building inspector had to come out each time to approve each back-filled level as it was completed, then he could start on the next 2′ level and repeat.

    You may have building code requirements in your area if you’re doing a 6′ wall… and I’d personally consider reinforcing the fill if its going to be that tall so you know it’ll be stable.

    We live in WA state though, and that slope is quite steep so his situation may be extreme, but 6′ is still quite high for just stackers.

  30. Mark: Your question regarding stackers on the edge of a concrete pad is interesting, but you’ve left out:
    a) how high the wall(s) will be

    b) how much rebar was used in the pad before it was poured.

    When re-baring my buddies work shop we had to HALF the rebar spacing in the flooring where he was placing his CNC machine, 500 ton press, and cast iron lathe. These are excessively heavy machines that need stability, but the 4 car bays and dyno pit used standard rebar spacing.

    Knowing how much rebar is in the pad, and how high (total vertical weight per square foot) the wall will be is necessary to know for sure. It may be easier to do walls directly alongside the pad if you’re unsure.

  31. I am about to put in a small retaining wall (holding back maybe 6″ of dirt) to make the boundary between our yard and the neighbor’s driveway more “presentable” than a simple sod slope—it cleans up the line of our landscaping. Anyway, I was going to put down the same stackable bricks you showed with the “Topper” (and I read that they come from HD). Two questions:
    1) Can you start with a cheaper block underground like hollow concrete blocks instead of using one of the more expensive textured concrete blocks?
    2) With this small of a wall I was thinking of knocking off the lip altogether and using some masonry adhesive to keep the courses in line with each other. Would this unnecessarily weaken the wall?

    Thanks for the great site; I’ll be back, ken

  32. I want to build a wall going down my driveway 72 ft about a 60 degree angle. Can I still build the wall going on a slant. I just want to go 18 to 24″ high. Please advise


  34. Question for you. I am building a retaining wall, 3 sides to go around a basement window. The wall is just under 4 feet high with side widths of about 4′ x 6′ x 4′ . While digging the trench I ran into pea gravel, which is for the basement wall drainage. Because of that gravel base, instead of using crushed stone, I ended up pouring a concrete footer, 14 inches wide, 6 inches deep, two rebars of 1/2″ diameter.
    All the guidelines I have found state to break off the retaining tab of my wall stone for the first layer, then backfill on both sides to keep the first stone layer from shifting. Here is my question:
    Since I have this concrete footer, would it not be more stable to NOT break off the tabs of the stone and instead put them at the edge of the concrete footer, using the footer and the stone tab to provide a more stable first layer?
    Joe Phillips

  35. On both sides of my front door I have three small shrubs (arborvitae, golden cypress, and azaleas) in soil beds that are about 15 feet long by 30 inches wide and run parallel to my house. They are bordered by a concrete walkway that also runs parallel to the front of my house. Every time it rains, the mulch around the shrubs washes away. I would like to build a 2 block high retaining wall to keep the mulch from washing away as well as for aesthetics. I put a few blocks down to see how they would look and they are higher than some of the shrubs. Because I already have an existing bed for my shrubs, will I need to dig them up, put down a new gravel and soil base and then replant the shrubs? Any tips you may have to put in a low wall without ripping everything out would be appreciated. Thanks!

  36. Hi, I would like to build a small retaining wall on either side of my driveway around the metal drainage pipe. Is there anything I should be aware of with this project, or is it just a straight forward retaining wall as stated here.

  37. I would like to build a short retaining wall around the base of a large pear tree. The problem is that the tree’s roots are established and a few of them have grown so they are visible above ground. I can’t dig down to lay my first layer or I will cut into a few major roots. Is there a way I can use the root as my ground level and build up the other areas to make a level base layer?

    I am in Seattle and the ground is hard clay. Thanks!

  38. I am doing a long driveway from the garage I built in the backyard to the main street, close to 250′ long. I will need to do a retaining wall that is close to 3′ tall in an area. There isn’t much pitch to my driveway.
    Question Is can I put my retaining wall blocks on top of my concrete so that I have a good base which will make a nice straight wall? The concrete is 4.500″ to 5″ thick and has rebar every 2′.


  39. Thank you for using my email. I do not have the driveway finished yet so I will be making the area the blocks sit on 1′ thick. The driveway is 12′ wide so I still have plenty of room to drive down it without hitting the wall. Again thanks for the advice.


  40. Can you tell me the size of the stackable blocks in your first picture on this site. Our customer loves them and I need to know more about them, like what they’re called and who stocks them?

  41. How do you join 2 block walls at a 45 degree angle without having the broken teeth syndrome? The block surfaces are visible from both sides of the wall.

  42. I have the same question as Pete above: how best to make an outside right angle in the wall? I want to add a parking space on a slight downward slope next to the driveway. It will be less than a foot high.

    I would build a wall of three sides, touching the drive at each end, and fill the space with crushed stone. I fear the corners will open up in time.

  43. We are putting in a retaining wall and when finished we will be putting down pavers after for a patio. How do we keep the base layer for the wall in place when we start digging out to lay pavers. Will the weight of wall keep it in place or will it fall out?

  44. I have a 7 foot tall large granite stone retaining wall that I would like to cut down to around 3 feet. How do I do this? What kind of company would I hire?

  45. I have a block retaining wall slightly leaning. This wall is about 5 ft high but the dirt behind it is actually only about 3.5 ft high. Could the 4 extra rows actually pulling the wall forward? If I remove them would the wall be more stable? The top 4 rows are not serving any purpose.

  46. I have wings on my house , there set back 18″ from the front, stick out 8″ . I live in maine . seams one of the wings is moving. has many cracks, beond the wings I have some huge boulders. looks like a clean break where it hooks to the foundation of house doesnt look like the used rebar. the walls are 4 ‘ feet into the ground but that area doesn’t seam to be cracked or moving. I was thinking of removing cement at ground level and building a retaining wall on top of the frost wall, I would love to run it past the huge boulders, but there is no frost walls there.
    I have many concerns , would I have to remove the boulders that wouldn’t be done with out a machine to do it. I would think they have to go. would it be a good idea to build retaining wall on a footing up the side of a house foundation.

  47. Last wall I built was in 2004 and I used solid concrete formed blocks 6″ high by 18″ long on the face, perhaps 12″ in the rear and had a lip on the bottom in back that overhung the row below to keep the wall from settling forward. Where do I find those kind of blocks today? I had bought them from Home Depot and some from Menards (WI retail home improvement box store).

  48. What a wonderful discovery your website has been for a retiree like me! I’ve just built my home. Can I use top soil for/in my retaining wall of 1.5 m all along my border? Is it feasible?
    Many thanks

  49. I need to build a straight retaining wall 7 foot high. May I use a 12”X7″X4″ block if I make sure to back fill ever 2 blocks high and use drainage pipe on a 12″ gravel base?

  50. I want to build a rectangular retaining block wall on the side of a garage. At the front corner there is asphalt from the driveway extending about six inches where the row of blocks should be at the corner of the garage, and the asphalt is sloped down away from the garage approx. 1-2 inches. The rest of the retaining wall area is dirt and a trench can be dug. Can I level this small section of asphalt with a bag of asphalt hole repair mix and place the blocks on that? Then dig the trench depth to meet the blocks on the asphalt since that would have to be the starting point. If so what would I put between the blocks and the asphalt to secure them. If I remove a large boxwood plant I can leave the asphalt alone and set the blocks back 8 inches or so from the corner of the garage in a trench. I’d appreciate your thoughts, thank you

  51. the second option of building behind the asphalt cant be done since the asphalt extends back farther than I thought. I’m looking forward to your thoughts, thank you

  52. Want to replace old retaining wall which is five courses high do I have to replace the bottom row or can I just stack new block on top of old bottom row?

  53. Dear Danny or Ben It is great to see you guys on here, it’s been a while. I am still attempting to fix my own home, I just turned 58 years young yesterday. M question is this. I have a cery small wall that was here when I bought the house that is now allowing dirt to run into the driveway, then into the drain and sump pump which isn’t a huge issue but it is when we have allot of rain and the dirt is on the drivewa and gets tracked all therough the house. HELP…do I take the stones down, remove the soil that is there, ( or the better part of i) and then place plastic sheeting between the pavers and the dirt to help stop the soil run off.? I hope you can follow what i mean. It is NOT a large area.. perhaps 4 feet by five feet but it is making a mess of my home and the dirt clogs the drain to the sump pump. I can send pics if it will help. Would using some mortor or something between the stones help the run off? It is a mixture of pavers and stones…again, not my design lolSO good to see the same people are still around!!
    Deb Tison

  54. I would like to know where we could purchase this type, color and style of retaining wall? The type in the second picture down. Thanks Tracy

  55. I am building 4 foot high retaining wall using interlocking blocks and struggling with the base. I dont know what material I need to use. Some places (Lowes) say to use paver base. Other people say to use road base, or compacting gravel. I dont want to buy the bags of paver base at lowes because it costs more than going to a quarry. Is road base ok to use then put 1 inch of this paver sand on top of that? Any information would be appreciated.

  56. I have a 7′ tall unmortared block retaining wall and recently added gutters to the front of my house that now empty behind this retaining wall. (Before this section of the roof had no gutters and the water fell from the drip line into shrubs in front of the house) I’m considering installing piping to move the water away from the foundation, but with the retaining wall, there is no other place to discharge it. Will this destroy my retaining wall? My house is on the downslope of a hill and there is a wide driveway below the retaining wall so there is not place to take the piping to daylight.

  57. a 4 foot high wall to retain soil that I am making – would cracker dust or road base do as a base or as I am thinking – a good thick concrete base 2 foot wide x 4 inches deep will be more better. Or is this overkill. Of course I will use gravel , geofabric and pipes for back fill and sink one blobk deep. These blocks are like besser blocks except that the front is roughened to show chocolate colored face. They clip into one another. I was thinking of using masonry glue right from the first block on concrete to the top level. Please advise. Thanks. Jay

  58. we are building a garden with the 2 outer parts 1 block high and the centre 2 blocks high app 5.5 metres by 2.5 mtrs how would be the best way to lay these. I was thinking road base the builders glue as we do not want to bury 1 block for cost reasons.

  59. We are building a small – 8-12 inches high – retaining wall. I know you suggest burying one brick, but is this required or can the bricks with the lip on the back serve as anchors in the dirt? Does the first brick have to be buried at all? To make it level some of the bricks were buried about 1 inch.

    We had the wall level and it seemed very sturdy (I could stand on it), prior to completing the wall the home owner had us tear it down because it wasn’t the right color. Now he says it was because it wasn’t buried at least 2-4 inches. These were stackable pavestone bricks with the lip on the back. The capstones were to be liquid nailed to the previous level. This man is extremely temperamental and hard to work with. He has had two hired handymen walk off the job of fixing his back door, a one day job according to my boss.

    Is there a way to salvage this job without feeling like we are being taken advantage of? We had already picked up and delivered the bricks and then returned them to the store (4 trips, total) barely being compensated for gas on the final trip ($20) Now, he wants us to pick up the new bricks, which will probably mean another two trips from a different store, which is even further away than the first. Okay, so what do you suggest?

  60. We want to build a two foot tall retaining wall 4.5 feet from our home foundation. We have clay soils in Texas. Any concerns with upsetting out footings? We want to do this to shorten the slope from our home.

  61. Hello can you help please…. I need to build a retaining wall. I am laying a patio and have found to keep it level I end up with a 750 mm drop at the end of the patio.
    The patio blocks will be laid on sand.
    Trouble is I have never built a retaining wall. Do you have any advice for me.
    Thanks in advance.

  62. Under the eave of my garage where do I install my blocks if I don’t want runoff? Outside the overhang or inside? If I place it outside the drip edge will the water build up behind the block and freeze in Minnesota and push the block out? Or do you place it right under the drip edge so the rain runoff spills onto the block,


  63. we are trying to raise the height of backyard so that it can be used, for which we need to build a retaining wall, w e have not done it before so any guidance will be appreciated. I am looking to build stack wall no mortar and want guidelines to do it.

  64. Your retaining wall design will determine how you mark the area. To mark a freeform layout, use a rope or hose to outline the shape. Then use a shovel to mark the outline. For straight lines, mark the entire bed area with stakes, string and marking paint. Mark curved corners by tying a string to a stake that’s equidistant to the edge — creating a compass — and spraying the curves with marking paint.

  65. Am putting in a retaining wall along a pond. The first two courses of blocks will be below ground/water level. The wall above ground level will be approximately 2 feet tall. Is a drainage pipe necessary behind a wall of that height, whose base will be below the water level of the pond?

  66. My retaining of wood has rotted and the wall was falling. I had local company supply large stone blocks. They dug down to lay the first blocks on soil. They put drainage stone behind the wall with a perforated pipe. The wall is starting to lean in after the 6 foot height. They are to take up the blocks above 6 feet and lay a geo blanket which looks like snow fencing and put the stone back down and fill the drainage stone over the blanket behind the wall. They were told that this will keep the upper blocks from moving. What do you think and any other tips?

  67. I am installing a patio with a small retaining wall for the garden. I am curious to know which should be installed first. Do I lay the patio, then build the retaining wall around it, or do I do the retaining wall first?

  68. My question is simple I am putting in a small retaining wall and at its tallest portion it will be 17″ going up slope to about 6″ I am using the hollow step block and putting rebar in a few areas for general purpose. Do I still need to put down gravel for a base being it is so short or not?

  69. I understand the reasoning behind tamping the soil and trying to make it level. However, why do you put gravel in the bottom? Does it help keep the stones from settling?

  70. I’am going to build a retaining wall that is going to be 3.5 feet in height how far should the gravel go back and will 4 inch slotted tubing with cover for the drain be a good enough for the drain. the blocks I was thinking of using are the 57 pound block size is 16 inch in length and 12 inches in depth and 6 inches in height.

  71. I don’t have time to read through ALL the comments in hopes of finding an answer, so hoping I might possibly get lucky and get an answer here. I would like to raise the level of my lawn using a retaining wall to support the raised edge. I am wondering about fill and whether it can be built directly over the existing lawn or if that lawn HAS to be removed first. I want to avoid at all costs accidentally digging into gas lines and drainage pipes or electrical lines etc. I would still have 811 come out and locate all those things but worry about potential mistakes and disastrous consequences. Plus, I don’t want the added trouble of removing all that sod if it isn’t necessary. Any advice? Can I use free fill dirt to fill in the bulk of the space before finishing off the top layers? I also want to add enough depth to the yard to be able to plant a simple garden. I’m probably missing a lot of good advice already shared. I’m sorry I am in such a hurry.

  72. I built a 3.5′ retaing wall about 4 years. I moved sand from a pole barn area to build a sloping grass area by the wall . The sand was not yellow sand . It was a lighter type of sand. Then about 2 years ago, we had a large rain fall
    & the earth moved in the center of the 30′ wall and formed a belly. I had only backed filled with sand & dirt & used landscaping cloth against the dirt. Now I tore down the wall and noticed the ground has formed a good firm background. My question is 1)do I need gravel as a bottom back fill. 2)should I again use a landscaping cloth between the stone &
    the dirt wall 3) OR can I simply backfill again with sand & dirt because the old wall of dirt looks pretty firm. Over the past couple winters, it
    appears that frost didn’t appear to be a problem.

  73. Some people have asked, “Why the gravel?” Here’s why I think gravel right behind the wall is a good idea:

    Gravel really doesn’t expand due to water, but soil does. In the article you read, “Your wall will be under immense pressure” which will only get worse if you have soil expanding directly behind the wall. Having gravel there as opposed to expanding soil will help alleviate water-swelling during downpours, and if you have a drainage pipe will help flooding when the gravel becomes saturated. Further, if you have a drainage pipe, you’d rather it be surrounded with gravel than soil because with time soil can get in the pipe.

  74. Is there a ratio of gravel behind retaining wall for gravel such as height and width or how wide gravel should be and high do we go to top of block?

  75. good questions, no answers for info. need to know how design wall is set up for curves. tapers are different, left and right cuts, what is proper way to set for curves.

  76. Pea gravel is a no-no. It will shift and cause settleing, and then damming. Your wall will bust in a few years if you level or backfill with pea gravel.

  77. Desperately selling rounded (really round not beveled) stones to add on to an existing wall from the 50s. You show several round ones in your photos, can you tell me where you found them!?

  78. You guys want to use limestone as back fill, compacting every few inches and applying a geo barrier. This barrier will help extend the life of your wall, it does not allow for the stone or soil to slide or settle to a point that is causes structural damage to your wall. When placing your first course of block, place blocks on compactable limestone, back fill with a washed and clean limestone but do not forget to run your tile behind your wall to ensure you do not retain water which will later freeze. You really only need soil in the top portion of your wall if you plan to plant grasses, bushes etc. Compact compact compact as you build, very important part that you can not skip if you want a wall that will last a life time.

  79. Don’t have time to read all comments, but our daughter & s-i-l just built a really, really high, straight-up retaining wall by their driveway w/these kinds of blocks, & after telling us it was going to be a rock wall, I can’t tell you how disappointed we were when -surprise! – we first saw it.

    IMO, if you build a wall, especially a higher 1, using these blocks, you should plan to plant ivy or some other vine to cover them ASAP. b/c I think in a few decades or so they’ll be so ubiquitous (already are, actually) & b/c they’re so lacking in character, that they’ll be almost like 60’s cheap-o wall paneling is now. I believe they’re still not very inexpensive, yet certainly easier to build with than real rock. However, you’re giving up all originality by using them & even if they hold up great over the years, they’ll at least also be attractive if they’re covered w/foliage.

    Sorry if I’m insulting anyone here. Not meant that way. Just MHO & in the hopes that some will keep beautification in mind, too.

  80. It’s interesting that you mentioned that if you’re thinking about building a retaining wall you need to be able to lift heavy objects. My husband was thinking about building that type of wall in our garden but he has a back problem so it’s probably not a good idea for him to do it. Instead, I’m going to call our contractor so he can come to build the retaining wall.

  81. LOVED that you said that you should make sure there aren’t pipes where you’re digging. My husband was thinking about getting a stone splitter so that we can build a retaining wall for our landscape to improve curb appeal. We’ll make sure to keep these tips in mind once we find a stone splitter to build a retaining wall. Thank you!!!!

  82. I like your recommendation to use stackable concrete blocks as a decorative retaining wall. My wife and I are considering renovating the back yard, but we may need some sort of barrier near the garden by our house. We’ll use these tips when the project begins. But, knowing us, we also may consider reaching out to a contractor or some sort of professional like that for recommendations!


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